The mandolin is a small lute featuring four sets of double strings and a short, fretted neck. Though not traditionally an Irish instrument, it has gained significant popularity in the world of traditional Irish music.

The three most common types are Neapolitan round backed mandolins, archtop mandolins and flat backed mandolins. The flat back model became popular in the USA in the 19th century and much like the banjo, found its way into Irish music from there. Today the Irish mandolin is tuned to GDAE, matching the tuning of Irish fiddles.

The Best Beginner Mandolin for Sale

The McNeela Irish Mandolin is one of the best beginner mandolins on the market today, offering unbeatable value for new musicians. This quality instrument is an acoustic flat back, A-Style mandolin, perfect for playing traditional Irish music.

Featuring a spruce body with oval sound holes and pearlescent inlay, with a choice of either sunburst or natural gloss finish this is an instrument that looks and sounds good. Here’s what happy customers have to say about it:

  • Beautiful instrument. Exactly what I was looking for… Love the instrument.’ – Joshua P.

  • A very good starter instrument at such a low price, and an excellent customer service as always.’ – Karl D.

  • Solid mandolin, feels great in the hands and plays great… Overall this mandolin is solid and melodic and plays faultlessly. I would 100% recommend.’ – Michael C.

  • Very well made mandolin with excellent tone.’ – Leonard K.

This beautiful mandolin is the perfect starter instrument for those wishing to learn to play the mandolin. Its clear, bright tone makes it ideal for playing any style of music while its compact size makes it comfortable to play and easy to transport, without compromising on volume:

Is a Mandolin Hard to Play?

In its most basic form the mandolin is a relatively simple instrument to learn. Like any musical instrument however it requires skill to master.

Like banjos, bouzoukis, guitars, and other stringed instruments, mandolins require finger dexterity and strong motor skills to master the combination of contrasting movements. One hand plays the notes by pressing down on the strings on the fretboard, while the other plucks or strums the strings.

Time, patience and plenty of practice will help you to achieve results.

Is Mandolin Harder Than Guitar?

While there are several similarities between the two instruments it’s difficult to draw a comparison. Both instruments are played in very different styles for example.

One notable difference is the size of the instruments, particularly when it comes to the neck and fretboard. Another lies in the number of strings.

Irish mandolins have 8 strings, tuned in 4 pairs or courses. To play a single note on the mandolin you must pluck or strike two strings at once, similar to the 12 string acoustic guitar.

A-Style Mandolin vs F-Style Mandolin

Irish mandolin workshop

Oval Hole Mandolins vs F-Hole Mandolins

The difference between the two models of mandolin is largely visual. A-style mandolins typically feature a pear or teardrop shaped body, with 2 oval sound holes. F-style mandolins feature an elaborate decorative scroll on the upper bout, in addition to 2 F sound holes (like those found on a violin).

Aesthetics and construction aside, oval hole mandolins (A-Style) will usually have a warmer, more woody tone and offer greater projection, sustain and resonance – particularly in the lower register. 

F-hole mandolins will typically offer a brighter tone, with more volume and a stronger attack. Sometimes, they can offer a slightly more percussive sound, depending on the instrument. The higher the quality of the craftsmanship however, the fewer the differences that exist between the two styles.

Traditionally, oval hole mandolins are more commonly used for traditional Irish music and folk music, while F-hole mandolins are played in bluegrass, country, and folk rock.

This is not a hard and fast rule however. You can play any style of music on whichever style of mandolin you prefer.

Mandolins Price Guide

How much does a good mandolin cost?

Mandolin prices can range from $150 / €140 to several thousand dollars, depending on the make and model. A good quality beginner mandolin however will typically cost between $150 – $300 / €140 – €280

Prices will vary based on brand, type of mandolin, quality of construction, materials used, country of manufacture, and more.

If you’re looking for more information about buying mandolins, make sure to check out the McNeela Irish Music Blog. Packed full of handy hints and tips, buyers guides, offers and more for beginner and seasoned musicians alike, it’s got everything you need to get started.

Browse McNeela’s extensive range of new and used instruments, including a selection of quality mandolins, in their online music shop: McNeela Mandolins


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